23 August 2010

Hitting the wire: Orana vahiny

The German wire service Deutsche Presse-Agentur (or DPA) has released a story about the release of Marmorkrebs in Madagascar.

It started making the rounds last Wednesday. It has shown up, without modification, here:

I strongly suspect it will be showing up at other locations. I’ll be collecting links as I find them.

Meanwhile, some fact-checking:

It is not clear how or when the shrimp-like crustacean, which is believed to originate in North America, came to this vast island, which lies 400 kilometres off the coast of Mozambique.

“Shrimp-like”? Don’t most people know what crayfish look like? If you’re going to compare it to something more people will recognize, it’s more lobster-like than shrimp-like.

In 2003, German scientists proved that the marmorkrebs could clone itself. Although the crayfish also reproduced sexually, females were able to lay eggs which hatched without being fertilised.

There is no record that I know of, in the scientific literature or otherwise, indicating that Marmorkrebs ever reproduce sexually.

“We get diarrhoea after eating them,” one farmer said. “Even the pigs won’t eat them.”

There’s no reason I can think of for Marmorkrebs to be gastronomically worse than any other kind of crustacean to eat, either for humans or pigs. The quoted person may well have gotten sick after eating Marmorkrebs, but it probably had more to do with a bad batch than being generally unsuitable for eating.

I am pleased to learn that “orana vahiny” is the Malagasy name for Marmorkrebs.

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